His eyes set on ending the 18-year-old wait for an Indian to become an All England champion, national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand on Friday hinted that P.V. Sindhu is perfectly placed to achieve the rare feat after a stellar 2018 in which the star shuttler clinched the season-ending World Tour Finals title to end on a high.
Gopichand was the last Indian to win the All England Championship in 2001, achieving the coveted feat after 21 years of Prakash Padukone's 1980 title.
Asked about Sindhu's superb run last year and the targets this year, he said: "I think this year Sindhu has done well in all big tournaments. The World Tour Finals win has been even better. It's a great start to come in to this year."
Sindhu capped a successful season where she won silver medals at the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, World Championship and finished runners-up at the India Open and the Thailand Open.
The All England Open and the World Championships are slated to take place this year, and Gopichand said with the Olympic qualifying also there, the aim would be to ensure the biggest team goes to Tokyo.
"We have two major tournaments this year, the All England Championship and World Championships, also we have the Olympics Qualifying. The main target will be to ensure that we have high ranking and go to the Olympics with the biggest team," the 45-year-old said on the sidelines of a promotional event.
Last year wasn't a good one for Kidambi Srikanth and H.S. Prannoy as they returned trophy less. But Gopichand remained hopeful of their comeback this term blaming the hectic schedule for their below par shows.
"At the end of the year we have four athletes in top 20. I am happy with the men's singles (show). Of course 2017 has been phenomenal. This was much tougher than 2017. We had two big tournaments -- the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games -- which also took away two months of preparation time.
"And also the new BWF calendar asked top players to play lot more. Injuries were also there. Prannoy was recovering from an injury but overall for Srikanth although it might sound that it has been a championship less year, he has consistently reached quarters/semis. He is somebody who is very good and will make a comeback."
Talking about his journey as a player, Gopichand shared a bad memory he had in the city when he was 14.
In Kolkata, I have a memory which I dread in a lot of ways. I was playing the junior nationals. We were playing at the Netaji Indoor and living at Salt Lake (which is far off).
"I did not know I had two matches that day and came back to sleep as I was suffering from sinus issues because of the humid conditions.
"Then I had to give walkover and didn't know how to reach Netaji Indoor from Salt Lake. I ran from pillar to post asking people how I can get there. I never cried so much in my life.
"There are instances like these that don't matter now but was so scary then."
Gopichand also spoke about his anterior cruciate ligament tear on the left leg in 1994 describing how he had thought he could never recover. He underwent more surgery on the knee in 1996 and 1998.
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